When the word ‘assault’ is used to describe an offence, it is normally used as a general term. The reason we say that is there are actually several specific offences of assault, and criminal lawyers are likely to be required to represent someone charged with any one of them.
As a general definition of assault, it is normally regarded as touching, striking, moving, or applying force to someone. This can be done indirectly or directly, and it has to occur, either without the consent of the victim, or in a situation where consent was given, but was obtained fraudulently.
One error people make when thinking about the offence of assault is that they assume that physical harm must have been caused to the victim. Merely threatening assault or being capable of carrying out assault is sufficient for a crime to occur.
In situations where assault has occurred domestically, where a child was present, the person assaulted was over 60, there is racial motivation for the assault or the assault broke the terms of a restraining order, this is classed as aggravated assault.
As we mentioned there are different categories of assault which are each classed as crimes in their own right, so let us explore them in more detail.
A common assault occurs when a person is either threatened with, or in fact, receives an injury from another person. The level of injury in a common assault is usually a minor one such as a bruise or small cut, and would not normally require any medical treatment, such as going to a hospital.
The punishments for common assault will depend on whether the conviction took place in a district or a magistrates court. In the district court, the maximum sentence is 5 years, or 7 years if the assault was aggravated. In a magistrates court, it is a $24,000 fine or 2 years in prison, with aggravated assaults going up to $36,000 and 3 years imprisonment.
Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm
The punishments for this type of assault or similar to those for common assault. The main differences are that with this assault, the need for medical attention may exist and that the victim’s health may have been impacted negatively.
Grievous Bodily Harm
This assault is serious enough to have caused the victim injuries so severe that they remain permanent or are likely to threaten their life. Injury examples include loss of a limb, broken bones, and disfigurement.
These will be dealt with in the district court only, and a sentence of 10 years imprisonment is possible. This could rise to 14 years if the person assaulted was in a special employment category such as health care, and they were doing their job at the time of the assault.
This occurs when the person assaulted was a police officer or a public officer who was carrying out their duty at the time. The maximum sentence is 7 years imprisonment, but if the assailant was armed, this can rise to 10 years.
Not every indecent assault has to be sexually motivated, but it would need to be regarded by any reasonable consideration as indecent in nature. This can be heard in either a district court with penalties of up to 5 years imprisonment or a magistrates court, who can hand down punishments of up to $24,000 fines and 2 years imprisonment.